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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 February 2007, 13:55 GMT
Council rapped over woman's death
Maria Stones
Maria Stones suffered eight broken ribs after falling
An elderly woman who died after an accident in her home was let down by the carers who should have looked after her, a government ombudsman has said.

Maria Stones, 95, died after her home-help failed to report a fall in January 2004 which left her with eight broken ribs.

The carer was from an agency contracted by Sheffield City Council.

Ombudsman Anne Seex said the council's failure to respond to complaints about the agency was maladministration.

Mrs Stones' son Edward contacted the ombudsman about a raft of complaints he had made to the council.

Both his parents started receiving help from the council in 1999.

Broken ribs

Mr Stones said there were regularly problems with staff arriving late or not at all and started complaining to the council before his father's death in 2003.

His mother died two weeks after falling against the corner of a table as she rushed to answer the door to the home-help.

The carer let herself in, helped Maria off the floor and wrote up the daily log, without mentioning the accident.

It can never be acceptable for elderly people whose care is the responsibility of the council to have to wait long periods of time for their next meal or for their medication to be given
Anne Seex
Local Government Ombudsman

Mrs Stones was left with eight broken ribs, and later died after contracting pneumonia.

The Shefcare agency sacked the home-help for failing to report the incident, and terminated its own contract with the council in April 2005.

The first time the council contacted Mr Stones was after his mother's death in May 2004.

Mr Stones said: "If it had not been for my mother's death I don't think social services would have taken any notice of what I was saying to them.

"The original complaint I sent in was disregarded and I am not confident it would've been until something more official happened."

Distressing case

In her report, Ms Seex said Mrs Stones had been "failed by the system which was supposed to protect her".

The report said: "It can never be acceptable for elderly people whose care is the responsibility of the council to have to wait long periods of time for their next meal or for their medication to be given.

"Councils must respond to reports of missed or late calls by agency staff and follow up complaints by, or on behalf of, vulnerable service users as a matter of urgency."

A statement from the council said it had been a distressing case for all concerned.

It said: "The ombudsman's investigation acknowledges that swift action was taken against the care worker concerned."

The council has agreed to the ombudsman's recommendations to pay Mr Stones 500 towards the costs of bringing the complaint, and 1,000 for a memorial to his mother.


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